Arabian Stars & Constellations

A fas­ci­nat­ing arti­cle on the Plan­e­tary Soci­ety web­site: Whose Stars? Our her­itage of Ara­bi­an astron­o­my:

Gre­co-Mesopotami­an con­stel­la­tion fig­ures bear Latin names. Their bright­est stars are des­ig­nat­ed with let­ters of the Greek alpha­bet, yet most of them bear prop­er names that derive from Ara­bic. Even so, many of these star names are Ara­bic descrip­tions of Greek con­stel­la­tion fig­ures, not Ara­bi­an ones.

Learn more about the Ara­bi­an star and con­stel­la­tion names, like, for instance, ath-Thu­raya (aka the Pleiades) and her Hands (one ampu­tat­ed, one hen­na-dyed), Alde­baran (the Fol­low­er), al-Jawza’ and the Shi’ra sis­ters, and more.

It’s fas­ci­nat­ing, and at least part of the rea­son I’m post­ing this is to book­mark the arti­cle for lat­er re-read­ing. I think it might be a use­ful thing for a sci­ence-fic­tion writer to know about.

Head­er image: Pleiades (or I guess ath-Thu­raya), tak­en by me in 2015.

Parallel Prairies review

Parallel Prairies cover

This is the first review I’ve come across for the new made-in-Man­i­to­ba anthol­o­gy Par­al­lel Prairies, and I’m glad to say the review­er appears to have enjoyed my short sto­ry “Vin­cent and Char­lie”.

Anoth­er rur­al close encounter of note in the col­lec­tion is Bran­don-based Patrick Johanneson’s Vin­cent and Char­lie. The sto­ry explores the con­cept of alien telepa­thy and mem­o­ry manip­u­la­tion from inside a mind descend­ing into demen­tia. Johan­neson finds an art­ful bal­ance between sus­pense and sen­ti­men­tal­i­ty and adds a soupçon of Men in Black for good mea­sure.

Sarah Jo Kirsch, The Uniter

Read the full review here.

Par­al­lel Prairies launch­es Oct. 11, 2018, at McNal­ly Robin­son Book­sellers in Win­nipeg, and Oct. 13, 2018, at Bran­don University’s John E. Rob­bins Library.

You can order the book from McNal­ly Robin­son, too, if you’d like (there will be copies avail­able at the launch­es, of course).

Something upcoming

fountain pen on notepad

A cou­ple lines from my get­ting-clos­er-to-com­plet­ed first draft of Trans­la­tions:

Gen­er­al Armitage gave me an amused look. “Oh, but you’re not Daniel Sny­der,” he said. He held up a pho­to of my father: “This is Daniel Sny­der.”


Head­er pho­to by Aaron Bur­den on Unsplash.


My goals for my writ­ing retreat, 2018 edi­tion, were pret­ty sim­ple:

  1. Get at least 10,000 words writ­ten in Trans­la­tions, prefer­ably more like 12,500.
  2. Do some astropho­tog­ra­phy and just gen­er­al pho­tog­ra­phy.
  3. Do some kayak­ing and bike rid­ing.

How’d I do?

At the start of the week, my nov­el sat at 65, 968 words. As I write this, I’ve just crossed the 80,000–word mark. So I man­aged 14,055 new words in this first draft. I’m hap­py with that—especially con­sid­er­ing that I essen­tial­ly took Fri­day off from writ­ing.

Also, I got a pile of pho­tos tak­en. I had hoped for some good shots of the Milky Way, but the moon was near­ing full, so the skies were too bright for that. I did get a cou­ple nice star-trail shots, though.

I also went to Win­nipeg, for Chadwick’s book launch, and had a love­ly chat in the evening with Mike & Michelle, a cou­ple friends I haven’t seen in a long time.

As far as kayaking—well, the weath­er didn’t coop­er­ate. It was con­sis­tent­ly around 20°C here this week, which is a bit chilly to go out on the lake. It’s sup­posed to hit 27 or 28 Mon­day, but by then I’ll be back at the office. I did go for a few bike rides, which was nice, and as I write this on Sun­day, I’m plan­ning one more before I pack up and leave.

So, on the whole, I’m going to call Writ­ing Retreat 2018 a suc­cess. It’s been a pro­duc­tive, fun, glo­ri­ous time, and I’m going to miss it.

Same time next year.

Series: Writing Retreat 2018

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Sun­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Mon­day; Writ­ing Retreat, 2018: Tuesday–Thursday; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: The Week­end; Wrap-up.

Writing Retreat 2018: The Weekend

Star trails above a pond and field, near Minnedosa, MB.


The neigh­bours start­ed show­ing up at their cab­ins on Fri­day. After hav­ing the run of the place, I had to reac­cli­ma­tize myself to peo­ple. It wasn’t easy. (If I used emo­ji on this blog, there would be a winky face right here.)

The fam­i­ly to the north is hav­ing Hydro-relat­ed issues (the short ver­sion is they have no elec­tric­i­ty, and prob­a­bly won’t till at least Mon­day). Ed, who owns the cab­in where I live, let them run  a cou­ple exten­sion cords from his out­side plug so they could have refrig­er­a­tion. In return, they’ve turned on their wifi and gave me the pass­word. So now I can post with­out hav­ing to go down to the cof­fee shop in town (not that that was any great hard­ship).

I gave myself Fri­day off from writ­ing, but I still did a bunch of writ­ing-relat­ed busi­ness: I read out on the deck, I checked in on the sta­tus of “Me and the Bee” with the mar­kets that have had it since Feb­ru­ary (one rejec­tion, damn it, and one hasn’t yet replied) and did some research on The Sub­mis­sion Grinder, look­ing for a pos­si­ble home for it. I’m start­ing to think  I might just have to pub­lish it here and be done, but I’ll wait a while longer.

In the evening I head­ed out to do some star-trail pho­tog­ra­phy, but got about ten min­utes out and the clouds rolled in, so I returned to the cab­in and went to bed instead.


Sat­ur­day I final­ly got out onto the deck to do some writ­ing. It was pret­ty nice, though it’s a lit­tle annoy­ing hav­ing to shut my lap­top down com­plete­ly to move it from one plug to anoth­er (the battery’s shot, so it’s just the way it is).

I did my 1,250 words, then took a dri­ve to Shi­lo with Kath­leen and a cou­ple oth­ers, where we served as non-skat­ing offi­cials (or “flamin­goes”, thanks to the pink shirts we were giv­en to wear) at Scar­let Fever’s deci­sive vic­to­ry over a Win­nipeg roller-der­by team whose name, sor­ry to say, eludes me at the moment.

It was about mid­night when we left the after-par­ty (first in last out, woo), and then I hemmed and hawed about whether I’d go back to the cab­in or sleep at home. In the end, the cloud­less night con­vinced me, and I man­aged to get the pho­to above (star trails over a pond and canola field, just north of Minnedosa). It was 3 AM by the time I got to bed.


And now here I am, out on the deck again, writ­ing this post. Once it’s done, I’ll do my 1,250 words, and then I guess pack every­thing up and head home.

Thanks, Karen and Ed, for the use of the cab­in. I real­ly appre­ci­ate it.

Thanks, Minnedosa. It’s been great. Same time next year?

Series: Writing Retreat 2018

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Sun­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Mon­day; Writ­ing Retreat, 2018: Tuesday–Thursday; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: The Week­end; Wrap-up.

Writing Retreat, 2018: Tuesday–Thursday

Chadwick Ginther reads from his new novel

Tues­day and Wednes­day were a lot like Mon­day, except I didn’t set my alarm for 2:30 AM either day.


I got up, wrote, read, wrote some more, then head­ed to Win­nipeg, to see my friend Chad­wick Ginther launch his new nov­el, Grave­yard Mind, at McNal­ly Robin­son.

Chad­wick read­ing from Grave­yard Mind.

On my way, I hap­pened upon a love­ly field of sun­flow­ers, so I stopped for a few pho­tos. None of them turned out, because I neglect­ed to turn on the aut­o­fo­cus on my lens. But that’s OK, because I went back today (Fri­day) to scout the spot for a pos­si­ble round of star trails lat­er tonight, and I got this pho­to:

One sun­flower, look­ing back

And then, after vis­it­ing with some friends in Win­nipeg (thanks for the iced tea, Mike & Michelle!), I stopped in at the aban­doned house near Erick­son, and got about a half-hour’s worth of star trails.

Star trails above the aban­doned house

It was about 2:30 AM when I got back to the cab­in (hmm, I seem to have an affin­i­ty for that time…), so I start­ed the star-trail GIMP plu­g­in whose even­tu­al out­put you see above,  then went to bed.

Series: Writing Retreat 2018

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Sun­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Mon­day; Writ­ing Retreat, 2018: Tuesday–Thursday; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: The Week­end; Wrap-up.